Schooling during a pandemic

By Melanie LeCroy
Posted 5/8/20

The school week may be operating on a new timetable and the classroom looks very different, but class is in session across Baldwin County.

Across the region teachers, parents and students are …

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Schooling during a pandemic

Posted

The school week may be operating on a new timetable and the classroom looks very different, but class is in session across Baldwin County.

Across the region teachers, parents and students are learning a new system and working together to finish the school year as strong as possible. Gulf Coast Media reached out to several parents and teachers to see how things are going.

South Baldwin Christian has transitioned to a new system like many other schools in Baldwin County.

Jessie Williams, Director of Marketing and Communications said, “Although transitioning from a traditional on-campus educational model to an online education models has been a learning process for our school community, students are excited about the flexibility this new online learning model offers and are enjoying spending more time with their families. The grading process is continuing as normal with students receiving motivation, encouragement and opportunities for engagement from teachers and administration.”

Amie, a mother to five children ranging in grades from high school to kindergarten, has a lot more to juggle than most. Emails from five children’s teachers could be a full-time job. Some days have been a real struggle while others have not.

“Some days are OK; some days are a battle. Today was a good day, so I am not as negative feeling about it today as I was yesterday. Yesterday was bad.  Yesterday was one of the days I wished I had just opted for the packets instead of doing the online learning. I am old school; all this computer stuff is hard for me. The kids are great with the computer stuff, it is me having the hard time with that part,” Amie said.

“We truly are enjoying the times in between the bleh moments.  There has been more laughter, and spending time together...it outweighs the negative parts,” she said.

Many of the teachers connecting regularly with 20 to 70 students a day are also parents with children of their own that they must keep on track.

One Fairhope Elementary School second-grade teacher, who wished not to be named, said, “Being an educator, it has been somewhat challenging. While trying to meet the needs of my students and communicate effectively with their families, I also have to make sure I am meeting the needs as a parent for my children. Ensuring they have a quiet workspace, understand and complete the required tasks/assignments from their teachers.

“Just as I do in my classroom, I have established systems and routines to make sure I get my work done and they get their work done simultaneously. I pause to answer questions when needed or they make a sticky note for me to come back to later in the day,” she said.

Amanda Smith, who teaches fifth grade and has three children at home said,” I feel that we’re all just doing the best we can right now.  I’ve used the word grace a lot lately. We’ll have to give grace to our own kids as well as our students.”

For some children, the classroom is a safe place they can rely on. A seventh-grade teacher at a Title 1 school said she is worried about her students. Not being able to see them weighs heavy on her heart.

“Many of them come from troubled situations and school was their only peace.  That is what worries me most.  I strive to make sure they all feel loved every day.  I hope someone is there to tell them that they matter and that they are loved and that they can do hard things,” she said.

“Middle schoolers have so many needs.  Their social/emotional health is just as important as their academics in my opinion.  I am just worried about them feeling isolated and alone,” she said.  “It is so hard not to see their faces.  I never really got to give them a hug or say goodbye, so I worry about them feeling abandoned in a way.”

Half of the teachers that responded are concerned summer slide and a loss of knowledge could be more severe this year, but they all agreed they will be ready in the fall and will adapt. 

“I definitely think there will be more to review, but I think that's the key word-review,” said eighth grade English teacher Emily Steigerwald

“We always begin the year by reviewing with our students anyway, and I do think we will have to spend more time on this to replace the lost in-class instruction, but I think the teachers in our county are, and will be, fully prepared for this. We have amazing teachers and principals who are very much in-tune with students' needs, and we also have an awesome curriculum department working alongside our county leaders, and together we all have the students' best interests at heart,” she said. “We will take the necessary time to review and do our best to work with students to fill in any gaps due to this unexpected time off.”

Teachers agreed that connecting with their students online is not the same.

 “I miss the kids.  I miss their faces.  I miss their laughter.  I miss their drama and their sassiness.  I miss our classroom.  I miss our classroom because it was one of the only safe places some of them knew,” said a seventh-grade teacher.

Amanda Smith said “Without a doubt, I miss the kids and all of their funny conversations the very most.  By this time in the year, these kids are part of our heart and we are missing them like we are missing family.  I want to ask so many questions and just have one more Monday Morning Meeting with them so they can tell me all of the things they’ve been waiting to share with me and their classmates.”